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Monday, October 23 Sports

Scott Ericson: FCIAC/SWC basketball showcase shines

The FCIAC boys’ basketball final four is moving back to its old home at Wilton’s Zeoli Field House this coming winter.

Moving the games back to Wilton — where the final four was held for years before league expansion — is the best decision the FCIAC has made in a decade.

If moving the game back to Wilton is the FCIAC’s best decision, what took place at the field house Sunday afternoon could be a close second.

The event was not officially FCIAC-sponsored but rather the brainchild of FCIAC basketball chief Jim Moriarty and Wilton coach Joel Geriak.

On Sunday in the field house, basketball players from 16 FCIAC and SWC high schools gathered.

Participating teams were McMahon, Danbury, Warde, Norwalk, New Canaan, Stamford, Staples, Trinity Catholic, Trumbull and Wilton from the FCIAC, and Barlow, New Milford, Newtown, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Stratford and Pomperaug from the SWC.

Also attending the showcase were coaches from seven colleges, a number organizers hope grows yearly.

As more and more kids flee CIAC schools, with prep and boarding schools promising to get them increased exposure to college coaches, local coaches wanted to do something to incentivize players to stay at their local high schools.

“We want to market our kids. It’s a chance for all of Fairfield County’s basketball players to be seen by college coaches, to get to play together, play different teams. This is the first and we hope to do this annually,” Moriarty said. “It is a starting point to improving basketball in Fairfield County. Kids think the only way to be seen is by going to a prep school. Fairfield County basketball over the years has been phenomenal and produced a lot of college talent.”

Kids leave for prep schools for a variety of reasons, and every family’s situation is different.

Having said that, it is no secret that some coaches from local prep schools actively recruit kids from area high schools.

Some are even so brazen as to come to high school games and speak to the kids immediately after games.

They are sometimes sold a bill of goods about going to play at a prep school being a direct path to Division I college basketball.

When a local high school team loses two starting players to a prep school, that program suffers immensely.

The truth is, if you are a quality player, colleges will find you no matter where you play.

Especially in a sport like basketball where talent is easy to discern, there is little advantage basketball-wise to attending a commuter prep school.

As an aside, boarding school basketball has exploded and the talent at those schools cannot be denied. If you have big-time DI potential, it might make sense to go away to one of those schools because of the competition.

The players from Fairfield County this applies to are few and far between.

What does not make sense is for an average player to go to these prep schools and ride the pine, watching guys who are going to Kentucky or Syracuse, but never playing themselves.

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Players who could have starred at their local high school spending four years as a practice player.

This has been the fate of several good but not great players leaving local high schools for big-time boarding school teams recently.

But forgoing an FCIAC school for the FAA simply for basketball makes little sense. Even if one or two teams in the FAA puts out a loaded lineup, the overall quality of the league is not as deep as the FCIAC.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to play against better competition on a nightly basis? Or is piling up stats against weaker opponents given more regard by college coaches?

Again, this is just about basketball.

Obviously, these schools offer kids from certain school districts a better educational experience that is hard to deny, though that argument cannot be made about kids from other highly acclaimed local districts who go the prep route.

It is a basketball problem that is getting worse, but hopefully events like Sunday’s help players stay.

On Sunday, the 16 teams participated in three 16-minute games each, over four courts laid out in the field house.

Local varsity referees worked the games, donating their time in the name of cancer research.

Coaches from nearly all the participating schools were in attendance, though only as spectators, as CIAC rules forbid them from coaching their teams out of season.

Still, coaches got a chance to see their players, as well as getting a look at what opponents have in store for the upcoming season.

For the players, Sunday was not just about being seen by colleges but getting on the court with teammates against the best players in the area.

“This is a great event because you are getting to see the guys you will be playing against during the season and you get to work with your team. It’s cool to get to see these guys from other schools and get a sense of what they do,” said Notre Dame of Fairfield junior Charles Clemons. “It’s a good chance to get seen by coaches, too. Good chance to show them what I’ve done in my offseason and show these college coaches what I can do.”

What happened Sunday is a good start for local basketball programs, and hopefully only the beginning.

Sericson

@stamfordadvocate.com;

@EricsonSports

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